What would a song sung at a burial be called ? (One word)

For example: A melancholic ____ was sung by the mourners at the burial of the youngest son of the mayor.

  • 3
    There is no single-word term, to my knowledge, that will do for the whole set. 'Funeral song' has no strict synonyms in English: some are inspirational, even joyful, rather than being dirges/laments/coronachs/threnodies. Commented May 5, 2017 at 9:46
  • I had 4 words spring into my head but all 4 are already in individual answers. Darn it. Anyone who's read McCaffrey's Pern books knows threnody!!
    – ErikE
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 15:19
  • Are you looking for the contemporary word people would use, esp. in speaking, or a jumble of rare, archaic and literary terms that only even occur in print, and even then not so much in the last 200+ years?
    – smci
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 10:04
  • 1
    Of all the answers below, requiem and lament are the only ones you should take seriously.
    – Neil_UK
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 13:54

6 Answers 6


A dirge is such a song.

a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite.

a mournful song, piece of music, or poem.

-Oxford Living Dictionary


A melancholic dirge was sung by the mourners at the burial of the youngest son of the mayor.


"elegy" is also appropriate.

  1. a : a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elegy

  • 1
    This would have been my go-to answer, but I guess it can also be a poem hence dirge was accepted.. Commented May 5, 2017 at 16:21
  • 13
    This is a MUCH nicer sounding word than dirge.
    – niico
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 20:40
  • 1
    I don't follow your claims of "nicer sounding." That seems entirely subjective. For instance, consider the following statement someone could make: "Dirge is a MUCH nicer sounding word than elegy."
    – bubbleking
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 22:56
  • @bubbleking This entire conversation is subjective. Dirge has negative overtones the others do not.
    – niico
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 7:50
  • @niico That's a good point. I took your statement as a judgment on the aesthetics of the word's pronunciation, not its overtones.
    – bubbleking
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:11

I think you could use "requiem".

According to the Merriam-Webster online Dictionary, the second meaning of "requiem" seems to be what you are looking for:

Definition of requiem 

1 :  a mass for the dead 
  a :  a solemn chant (such as a dirge) for the repose of the dead 
  b :  something that resembles such a solemn chant 
  a :  a musical setting of the mass for the dead 
  b :  a musical composition in honor of the dead

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/requiem

  • I always understood requiem to apply more to a group of people rather than an individual, but I can't find anything definitive either way.
    – Sparhawk
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 0:25

Such a song can be called a threnody. From Merriam-Webster:

a song of lamentation for the dead : elegy

  • 7
    That's a good word. Your answer would benefit from including the definition in the text and maybe a sentence or two of your own explanation.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 15:44
  • 2
    This is the best answer in my opinion. Dirge is an old-fashioned word. Requiem is specific to a funeral mass. Elegy is a bit too general.
    – user227547
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 15:52
  • 6
    @Palizsche Dirge may be old-fashioned, but so is threnody; more so, I’d say. It’s also a lot more obscure, and no less general than elegy or lament. Commented May 6, 2017 at 9:52
  • I've added the definition and (very brief) citation from your link; feel free to roll back the edit if you really don't want it, and/or add further explanation of your own.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 16:39
  • 2
    Way too rare and archaic. Whether it can be called that, and whether the average person would ever call it that (or even be aware of this rare and archaic word), are two entirely different things.
    – smci
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 10:02

A lament is a suitable word also - a lament implies sadness, grief, sorrow - a dirge also implies miserable and slow.

  • 10
    Good answers on this site tend to have research to back them up. For a single word request this would normally include a referenced dictionary definition.
    – AndyT
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 9:13
  • 1
    Lament, as in "Dido's Lament" from Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. Commented May 5, 2017 at 14:16

If the burial is a Christian religious service then the song might be a "hymn" (which is a generic word used for all songs sung at religious services, not only at burials).

None of the words suggested in other answers would do, if it is a Christian religious service ... the other words are English-language but they are uncommon and/or pagan.

  • Dirge: nearly tuneless, probably repetitive
  • Requiem: probably lasts the whole mass i.e. it's the whole service set to music, and performed by professional musicians
  • Threnody: obscure

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